What barriers do entrepreneurs face when they’re women, nonbinary or part of another marginalized group? Inequity can hold them back throughout the entire process, from building a startup to finding funding. Susanne Althoff, author and associate professor at Emerson College, explores those difficulties in “Launching While Female: Smashing the System That Holds Women Entrepreneurs Back.” She spoke with over a hundred founders to provide a full picture of these societal gaps – and how to overcome them.
Read on to learn more from Althoff:
What is “Launching While Female” about?
“Launching While Female: Smashing the System That Holds Women Entrepreneurs Back” is based on more than 100 interviews with women and nonbinary entrepreneurs across the United States and in fields ranging from biotech to food, rocket science to music. These founders reveal the biggest obstacles they’ve encountered on their entrepreneurial journeys and explain how they found success. The book concludes by detailing how we all can make the entrepreneurial space more inclusive and equitable and better promote innovation.
- An examination of the most common hurdles faced by women and nonbinary entrepreneurs, including a shortage of startup capital, bias and discrimination, too few mentors and role models and a lack of confidence
- How an inequitable entrepreneurial system robs our economy and levels of innovation
- The most promising ways – from funding alternatives to student debt relief to real allyship – that we can open up entrepreneurship to more people
- The history of women’s entrepreneurship in the United States, including pioneers such as Madam C.J. Walker and Olive Ann Beech
Why should people read it? Who is the book for?
This book will offer inspiration and clarity to women and nonbinary entrepreneurs and those aspiring to join their ranks. It also gives action-oriented solutions to anyone interested in creating a more inclusive and equitable entrepreneurial community.
Single most important takeaway:
“Women entrepreneurs often operate their businesses outside of the norms, in ways that aid all of us. Many of the women I interviewed tell me they’re eager to collaborate with competitors. They insist on hiring diverse teams. They set up their companies to respect work-life balance, with flexible schedules and paid parental leave. These women prioritize their communities, offering jobs with living wages, mentoring local kids and making donations.”
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Ridhi Tariyal’s health-tech company, NextGen Jane, has developed a smart tampon that allows the collection and testing of cells from the reproductive tract that are shed during menstruation, giving users solid data on their fertility and health. In the early days of her startup, Tariyal struggled to get male investors enthused about her product’s incredible potential and comfortable talking about menstruation. One investor directed his questions and eye contact to Tariyal’s male cofounder, not to her.
“There are so many people that have pushed back on me, saying that if an investor is smart, they just let the data make the decision,” Tariyal told me. “If they saw that there’s a big market for women’s health, then the money would go there. And it’s just not true. The suggestions that investors are free of bias and go where the money goes don’t actually line up with reality.”
Meet the author
Susanne Althoff is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston. She teaches publishing entrepreneurship and women’s media and serves as an adviser to student startups. She’s also a journalist who writes about entrepreneurship and innovation, and her articles have appeared in Fortune, WIRED, The Boston Globe and other publications. Before she became a professor in 2015, Althoff had a two-decade career as a magazine editor. Her last post was editor-in-chief of The Boston Globe Magazine.